Friday, 27 May 2011

Thank God for the British Museum......

I was up in London yesterday checking a wax at the Bronze Age foundry.  All went well so I had time to see a couple of exhibitions......

Firstly I took myself off to see Women Make Sculpture (really?!) at the Pangolin Gallery in Kings Place just near Kings Cross station.  Some of the work was interesting, but with the only criteria for the show being that women had made the work there was of course not enough to hold it together - apart perhaps from the rather forced idea that if it's women then we must have some 'domestic' materials - cloth and pins preferably, and of course some disembodied penises.

Kings Place itself is huge with a massive open atrium with coffee bars strewn around.  The whole thing is given a cultural edge rather than a corporate one by the presence of The Guardian offices, a couple of galleries and a conference centre.   But scattered round this ultra modern building were many, far too many, large scale sculptures - 'placed' presumably to be sold, but so badly 'placed' and crowded out that each lost its meaning and power completely.

I moved on to the massive (and NY based) Gagosian Gallery - also up near Kings Cross.  Here the opposite ethos reined.  Seven pieces of very similar - and admittedly rather beautiful - assemblages of scrap metal by an American artist John Chamberlain stood with no competition.  This is a high cathedral of pure white cubed gallery space.   The only interruption to the white space was the two impeccable and imposing black security guards in beautiful black suits.  I had the feeling they were there not to guard the work but to add to its sense of value by the apparent necessity of their being there.  Nobody acknowledged me - not even the man whose job it was to specifically open the door to the gallery.   In my boots, and with my cheap rucksack, I was of no significance.

And so, on to the British Museum.......and what a relief.  Partly to be amongst so many objects that were not for sale and which had been made for practically every other reason under the sun.  But my overwhelming feeling yesterday was relief at being amongst a human race of equals - every language, race and nation seemed to be there.  The objects on display also come from the corners of the globe and so belong as much to the non-British visitors as to myself.  And it seems that wherever we come from on the globe, and whatever the historical period we lived in, we as humans like to make things, we like to decorate things, and we like to make representations of the human form.

Not one single person looking around was more or less important than any other regardless of what language they spoke or how much their shoes cost!